Debt Collectors: Defending Yourself

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iowa unemployment

Let's face it: there's a good chance that some of the people visiting this site have already been hit with fallout from the Great Unraveling. Whether they were in over the heads to begin with or have recently lost a job (or suffered some other misfortune), they are probably looking for answers. Under the circumstances, I'm sure at least a few visitors will find the following column from Marketwatch's Marshall Loeb, "What Debt Collectors Can't Do to You," to be of value.

    Debt collectors can make your life miserable when you are struggling to keep up with your financial obligations and have fallen behind on some of your debts. However, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act places limits on what they can do to collect the money they say you owe.

    In his new book "The Bankruptcy Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid Bankruptcy, Get Rid of Debt, And Rebuild Your Credit," bankruptcy attorney John Ventura says debt collectors are prohibited from taking these actions:

      • Repeatedly contacting you about a debt within a relatively short period of time (during one morning or afternoon) in an effort to wear you down.
      • Calling you earlier than 8 a.m. or later than 9 p.m., unless you tell the collector that it's OK to call you then. The FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from calling you at a time that you tell them is inconvenient, or anytime on Sunday. Similarly, it is unlawful for them to continue to call you if you tell them not to call you anymore.
      • However, that does not mean that debt collectors won't continue trying to collect the money that you owe. For example, if you owe a lot of money, they may sue you.
      • Calling you at work if you tell them that your employer doesn't want you contacted there, or calling your employer about the money you owe, except in the case of trying to collect past due child support from you.
      • Telling your friends, relatives or neighbors that you owe a debt in order to embarrass you into paying it. But debt collectors are allowed to contact them to find out how to get in touch with you -- where you live and your phone number -- although they cannot say why they want the information.
      • Sending you information about a past due debt using a postcard or an envelope that clearly indicates that it was sent by a debt collector, or using an envelope that appears to have been sent by a court or by a government agency.
      • Using profanity or abusive language when they talk to you or promising to ruin your reputation if you don't pay what you owe.
      • Threatening to throw you in jail. You can't be sent to jail for not paying your debts, with the exception of past due court-ordered child support, depending on the state that issued the court order.
      • Requiring you to accept their collect calls.